Pregnancy Glamor Shots Make The Most Of A Bella Belly

As Japanese women put off both marriage and families in favor of careers and a free lifestyle, many are finding that pregnancy may be a one-shot deal, so to speak. That's why photo studios like Tokyo's Ixchel are making a baby-booming business in pregnancy glamor shots.

It may seem strange that Japan is embracing the concept of nudity for mothers-to-be but Yuko Ishizaki, an assistant professor at Japan Women's University puts things in perspective.

"The special feeling of waiting for motherhood helps alleviate the fear of nudity," states Ishizaki, who goes on to say "And with more women becoming pregnant at a late age, for them this is an experience that will never happen again."

The word from the ward confirms Ishizaki's findings. Enthused Kumiko Yoda, who recently had a baby boy at the age of 40, "I was so happy during my pregnancy. This moment will not come back to me again and these pictures are for my own enjoyment."

What's behind the big belly baby boom? Some credit must go to celebrities who have  blazed a very public trail during their pregnancies, such as Britney Spears and Demi Moore. When popular J-pop singer Hitomi included a nude picture of her pregnant physique with her latest album, Love Life 2, the floodgates opened.

The 33-year-old  Hitomi was anything but shy during her pregnancy: her best-selling nude photo book sold 10,000 copies the first week and billboards displaying the album cover gave her widespread exposure to millions in Tokyo. With the buzz on bulbous bodies growing louder by the week, photo studios like Ixchel haven't looked back.

Taken in stylish settings by professional photographers, a session at Ixchel lasts about 2 hours and costs in the range of 35,000 yen (around $370). When asked how business was, Ixchel's owner Natsuko Takada stated "When I opened my studio for maternity photos last year we had less than 10 customers a month, but last month we had more than 70 ." (via StrollerDerby and Reuters, Hitomi image via JapanLands)